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Greenville public schools to report nearly 4,000 unreturned student laptops stolen

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Greenville School District

Nearly 4,000 student laptops — valued at almost $1.2 million — were never returned to Greenville public schools.

Greenville County’s public schools are missing nearly 4,000 laptops issued last school year to students.

The machines, Chromebooks that individually cost $301, are worth a combined $1.19 million, and the district will soon have to turn the matter over to police, Greenville County Schools spokesman Tim Waller told The Post and Courier.

"We will report whatever information is necessary to recover our devices," Waller said."That may include the names of parents/guardians."

Waller said the district's IT department has been trying to recover the missing machines since June, when schools first reported that families had not returned them. Initially 4,992 machines were missing, Waller said, but recovery efforts turned up another 800. Families reported that an additional 208 were lost or stolen.

With nearly 4,000 machines still unaccounted for, the district will have to submit an insurance claim. The only way the claim will be honored, Waller said, is if the machines have been reported as lost or stolen to local law enforcement.

"Since the end of the last school year, there have been multiple, multiple attempts to get these Chromebooks back," Waller said.

Parents and guardians of children who failed to give their laptops back at the end of the school year have been contacted five or six times by phone, email and with visits to their homes, he said. 

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In a last-ditch effort to recover the machines, Greenville County Schools issued a district-wide phone message and email blast to parents late Thursday asking that any machines still out there be returned.

"We are making repeated attempts to contact families," the message says, "but pretty soon we will have no choice but to notify law enforcement and report the missing devices as stolen so we can begin the replacement process. If your child has a school district issued Chromebook and has not received special permission to keep that device over the summer, please contact your school and return the device as soon as possible. In some cases there may be special circumstances that impact your ability to return the device and we will work with you."

Any families with complications can call 864-355-1289 to talk about options, the district message said. It also asked parents to let other families know, in case they have a Chromebook and have missed the district's alerts.

The school district's IT department needs time to refurbish machines that will be reissued in the fall. In the 2019-2020 school year, the district maintained 58,429 Chromebooks for students in grades three through 12. That number will jump to 77,754 in the upcoming school year as the district prepares to issue Chromebooks to every student in the district, pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Waller said the district currently has 77,000 Chromebooks on hand, an inventory that includes a pool of loaner devices that students can use while their machines are being repaired. 

Follow Anna B. Mitchell on Twitter at @AnnaBard2U.

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